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Working in styles not seen on British television for a very long time, this first episode of six-part Portuguese melodrama ‘Mysteries of Lisbon’, from late, legendary Chilean director Raoul Ruiz, intrigues and rewards in equal measure. Adapted from a novel by nineteenth-century writer Camilo Castelo Branco, the story focuses on a bright young boy in an austere boarding school who feels as confused and existentially alone as an orphan.
It can’t be denied that a few stylistic niggles might make you switch over within minutes. Lines are unexpectedly (and clumsily) dubbed into English at the start, before returning to subtitles with no explanation. The subtitles themselves present their own problems – even an enthusiastic teenage text-addict would find the overload of exclamation marks (‘I’m going right away!’; ‘But you said you were happy!’) annoying. But persevere. There is much to absorb and enjoy in this slowly unfurling tale of the boy, his shellshocked countess mother and his poor unfortunate father.